My Insurance Doesn't Cover What?
Avoid surprises by understanding your insurance policy
An insurance policy for your home or apartment is supposed to provide a sense of security. But before you get too comfortable, take time to speak to your agent or insurer to understand what's covered and what's not in your homeowners or renters policy. Don't make any assumptions. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers these tips on insurance coverage.
Are you prepared?
More than half of Americans said they don't have a list of their possessions according to an NAIC survey. Without an accurate inventory, you may not have the right home or rental insurance coverage. Because needs change, you should create an inventory of your possessions every year. Without this checklist, you may forget to claim items lost due to fire or another covered event.
The NAIC offers the myHOME Scr.APP.book app to help you capture images, descriptions, bar codes and serial numbers of personal possessions and stores the information electronically for safekeeping. The app organizes information by room and creates a back-up inventory for email sharing. Be sure to share the inventory with your agent or insurer. Periodically update the list as you acquire new things.
Understanding your policy
A standard homeowner or rental insurance policy contains four parts:
- declarations page
- the insuring agreement
- exclusions section
- general conditions
A standard homeowners or renters policy generally provides coverage for either the actual cash value or replacement value of your property with standard building materials. After a loss, you will always have to pay your deductible as outlined in your policy.
There are different types of coverages under a standard home or renters policy. Rental insurance is different from homeowners insurance in that rental policies only insure the contents, not the structure. Policies vary from company to company, so be sure you read — and understand — yours.
I'm covered if someone breaks in and steals my stuff right?
Most standard homeowners and renters insurance policies cover items that have been stolen (up to your policy limits). Be aware that certain categories like jewelry, antiques, art and other items often have limits unless you purchase additional coverage. If valuable items exceeding those limits are stolen and you don't have coverage for them, you may receive payment far less than the value.
What if there's a fire?
A typical policy will issue payment to replace or repair anything inside that home damaged by flames, smoke, soot and ash.
While fire and lightning are usually covered, don't be surprised if your insurance company asks for an inventory. The company is only required to pay for personal property you can prove you owned at the time of loss. The NAIC home inventory app is an easy way to make sure you're prepared.
Does insurance cover explosions?
Standard homeowners and rental policies will cover damage caused by explosions due to causes such as a gas leak. However, if an act of terrorism causes an explosion, the damage will not be covered. Likewise if your neighbor is experimenting with unauthorized chemicals, damage to your home will be covered. However, if you are doing such an act, damage to your home will not be covered.
My place flooded, now what?
Homeowners and renters insurance generally do not offer protection against flood losses. You should check your policy's exclusions. It will probably be listed under "water damage."
Flood insurance is available under a separate policy through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
What about natural disasters like earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes?
Damage caused by earthquakes is not usually covered in a standard homeowners or renters policy. If you want earthquake coverage, you need to purchase it separately. Earthquake insurance will only cover you for what is stated in the policy. It will not replace everything you lost.
Unlike earthquakes and floods, tornado damage is typically covered by standard homeowners and rental policies so there is likely no need to purchase additional coverage.
Hurricane damage caused by windstorm or hail is usually covered. However, flood or storm surge damage caused from a hurricane is not. If you live in an area prone to hurricanes, you should consider flood insurance.
What else isn't typically covered?
Other perils that are not usually covered include: war, nuclear accident, landslide, mudslide, sinkhole and any others listed in your policy. Read your policy or speak with your agent or insurer for a complete list of perils excluded and to purchase additional coverage you may need such as earthquake, flood, sewer backup and other coverage additions.
Insure U offers tips on preparing your home for severe storms and other disasters.
For more information, contact your state insurance department.